The Blur of Hindsight… Amidst all the attention being paid to the retracted Newsweek item about the Koran and the (to me) admirable efforts of the magazine’s editor-in-chief Mark Whitaker to deal with the issue honestly while standing up to the White House’s intimidation tactics, it’s a different piece by a different Newsweek editor that’s got me wondering. In a gently devastating essay in Sunday’s Washington Post, Jon Meacham takes the president to task for the May 7 speech in Latvia in which Bush asserted that 1945 Yalta Agreement “followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.” Writes Meacham:

Harsh words ? overly harsh, in my view….Bush’s criticism is more damning than discriminating. In its sweep, the president’s characterization of Yalta essentially indicts Roosevelt and Churchill as knowing actors in the manufacture and hanging of the Iron Curtain. For generations of post-World War II conservatives, “Yalta” was code for the left-wing “sellout” to the communists, and Bush was probably playing on deep-seated right-wing passions to set his own campaign for democracy apart from the liberal failures of the past.

But such code rarely does justice to the world’s complexities, and Bush could one day come to regret his dismissive allusion….[T]o put Yalta in the same sentence with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact unfairly casts Roosevelt and Churchill in the same light as Hitler and Stalin. Struck in August 1939, that bargain between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union satisfied Stalin’s territorial ambitions and enabled Hitler to invade Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, without fear of a hostile Soviet reaction in the east. It was, in other words, the agreement that most directly triggered the beginning of World War II, a conflict that claimed nearly 60 million lives.

Here’s my question: in the entire history of the United States, has a president ever publicly uttered a moral equivalency more abhorrent than what Bush did in his Latvia speech?

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.